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Twenty + Change: AM_A

“It’s a connection to the people for whom I am designing, rather than aesthetics or project type, that inspires me and brings satisfaction."

Built for a retired Toronto teacher, Craven Road House creates a private, light-filled haven on a modest footprint. Photo by doublespace photography

Architect Anya Moryoussef’s work is luxurious, yet pared back. It’s characterized by a thoughtful minimalism that feels complete, atmospheric and unique.

That design sensibility comes from Moryoussef’s empathetic care for her clients, and desire to complement their idiosyncracies in her designs. This spirit of collaboration and support also extends to consultants, trades and colleagues. Moryoussef’s attention to relationships, narratives and character goes back to her graduate work, which was awarded an RAIC Student Medal for Outstanding Thesis. The study detailed the lives and psychologies of three characters: A Collector (a possible criminal responsible for a major arson), a Cartographer, and a Carpenter. Each personified a stage of architecture: the clearing of the site, preparing the grounds, and building of the home. During her formative years at Sarah Wigglesworth Architects in London, UK, Moryoussef participated in consultation-intensive projects—in the case of a primary school, extensive discussions were held with teachers, parents, and kids.

Built for a retired Toronto teacher, Craven Road House creates a private, light-filled haven on a modest footprint. Photo by doublespace photography
Built for a retired Toronto teacher, Craven Road House creates a private, light-filled haven on a modest footprint. Photo by doublespace photography

“It’s a connection to the people for whom I am designing, rather than aesthetics or project type, that inspires me and brings satisfaction,” says Moryoussef, who founded AM_A in 2016, and which includes team members James Swain and Artur Kobylanski. Centering on the client also means being diligent about budgets and understanding priorities. “Take, for example, the importance of natural light and privacy,” Moryoussef explains, referring to the 70-square-metre home on Craven Road she designed for a retired schoolteacher. The project focuses on creating a calm sanctuary, filled with light but set apart from the street—an atmosphere that plays out through every room and detail.

P’s Studiolo, a laneway office for an art director and screenwriter, is conceived as a stage set within an industrial shell. Photo by Scott Norsworthy
P’s Studiolo, a laneway office for an art director and screenwriter, is conceived as a stage set within an industrial shell. Photo by Scott Norsworthy

Many AM_A projects are renovations rather than full new builds. Rather than “obliterating and replacing,” says Moryoussef, “we take a surgical approach to reconceptualizing homes built in the past to make them suitable to the lifestyles of their contemporary inhabitants.” In Greenwood Semi I, AM_A’s design adjusts an existing Edwardian house to a family of two moms and a child, making space for their independent personalities, as well as their needs as a family. Moryoussef’s design weaves their interests together, rather than assimilating them.

Designed in collaboration with Gregory Beck Rubin, M’s Capsule is a pillbox-like washroom for a young bachelor that uses glass, mirror, and colour to create a sci-fi atmosphere. Photo by Scott Norsworthy

Even in small spaces, like washrooms, this personalized approach is apparent. At Craven Road, the space is adaptable for aging-in-place with dignity. M’s Capsule—a washroom for a young professional, designed in collaboration with architect Gregory Beck Rubin—has a space-age feel with its contrasting dark blue-and-white tiles, and anticipates the needs of bathing a future child.

In P’s Studiolo, a work-from-home laneway studio, the entry portico is conceptualized as the first in a series of small rooms that comprise the project. Concrete blocks, leftover from the construction, create a landing that transitions between the yard and the light-washed interior. “Good domestic spaces are ones that create intimate areas for life to happen,” says Moryoussef. “Often, they are not entirely closed off or entirely open, but exist as a combination of both.”

This profile is part of our August 2021 feature story, Twenty + Change: Emerging Talent

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